Have you ever pulled out a cutting board and sighed? Ever wished you could skip the chopping and go straight to the cooking? After 26 cookbooks, even the two of us can find knife work a hassle at the end of a busy day.

Perhaps you haven’t taken that knife skills class on your to-do list, or maybe you haven’t gotten around to buying good knives. Maybe your ability to chop just isn’t what it once was.

Whatever the reason, we have a hunch that such issues have contributed to the explosive growth of dinner delivery systems such as Blue Apron, Plated and Hello Fresh that provide a box of ingredients.

Let’s face it: Many of us like to cook. And we probably like the honest romance of preparing a meal, a glass of wine or iced tea at hand. We certainly like hot, fresh food on the table. We just don’t want to stand there dicing into the small hours.

That’s why we’ve developed no-chopping recipes that are geared to the wealth of convenience items in your supermarket produce section and freezer aisle.

You’ve probably already seen or used items such as minced garlic and ginger or chopped onion, celery, zucchini rounds or fresh stir-fry vegetable blends. Now you can find minced herbs in tubes in the produce section and even frozen chopped basil, a far better flavor boost than its dried version.


For years, some of us have skipped the prep work and shopped at the salad bar, where you can find grain mixtures as well as sliced radishes, beets, cucumbers and more. They’re a little more expensive per pound, but less than buying a whole cucumber and having what’s left over go boggy. In the freezer case, there are frozen bell pepper strips, broccoli florets and even artichoke heart quarters, among other options.

We found that changing the way we think through recipes helped us modify standard ones into no-knife ones. For example, frozen vegetables and fruits are often picked closer to ripeness than their fresh kin in the produce department. Those are often picked underripe so they’re sturdier for transport. So the frozen versions can end up sweeter on their overall palate.

To use them successfully, we have to pump up the sour, savory or even bitter notes in a dish. To that end, dried herbs are sometimes the best bet with frozen fare because the herbs have a slight, tealike tang – a little bitter muskiness that’s a better foil to those sweeter bits.

What’s more, frozen vegetables and fruits cook quickly. To avoid mush in the pan, we adjusted timings, even the moment when an ingredient is added; sometimes we add them straight from the freezer to the mixture in the pot. Yes, we can make a pretty fine onion soup with frozen, chopped onions. The trick is, we add them twice: upfront for flavor, then later for texture.

At the start of a braise, we often delay adding the frozen bell pepper strips, instead of cooking them earlier with onion and celery. That way, we can preserve the peppers’ texture as well as their slightly grassy flavor.

Pre-chopped garlic and ginger are terrific conveniences. Unfortunately, both lose a little spark in their broken-down state. Using more of them and balancing them with some salty notes elsewhere bring the essential flavors back into play. A little salty Parmigiano-Reggiano rind in a soup makes that minced, store-bought garlic pop.


Some convenience items are just better all around. Frozen pearl onions are peeled, which is a real time-saver. They can be tossed into hot fat while they’re still frozen and often end up with better caramelization than their fresh counterparts – and they’ll hold together better in long cooking, such as in our recipe for Arroz con Pollo, in which frozen artichoke hearts (often already quartered) go straight into the pot.

As a general rule, when we’re cooking without knives we’re looking for boneless this or fillet that in our protein choices so they’ll cook more quickly and more efficiently. But they can be a bit, well, dull, so we bring in more complex notes – as in that chicken-and-rice dish – to make up for loss of bones (read: flavor).

All that said, the two of us don’t want to use any ingredient that increases the chemical signature of what we eat. We’re not talking about making “semi-homemade” fare here; we want to use the best we can for ourselves and our families. And, of course, you can execute the accompanying recipes with knife in hand. We’ve kept them fairly flexible so they’ll work even with the drudgery of chopping.

Another benefit is you can double the recipe if friends drop by or when you want a hearty portion of leftovers for lunches. (Good luck pulling more servings out of a packaged meal box.)

Cooking without knives means you can get a meal on the table with the less-hassle characteristics of a boxed dinner kit, but greater flexibility. And we’re all for that at the end of a busy day.



It’s hard to believe you don’t have to chop or mince to make a pretty fine version of this Spanish classic. If you want to take it over the top, scatter a handful of small clams over the casserole before you set it aside for the final 10 minutes. They’ll open in the residual steam, adding a briny accent to the otherwise earthy casserole.

Makes 6 servings

3 fresh sweet Italian sausage links (9 to 12 ounces total; see headnote)

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


2 tablespoons olive oil

5 ounces frozen pearl onions (1 generous cup; do not defrost)

6 ounces frozen artichoke heart quarters (1 1/2 cups; do not defrost)

2 teaspoons pre-minced garlic

2 teaspoons dried oregano (may substitute 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves)

1 teaspoon mild Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)


1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1/2 cup dry sherry

1 3/4 cups canned, fire-roasted diced tomatoes and their juices (from one 14-ounce can; preferably the no-salt-added kind)

2 1/2 cups no-salt-added chicken broth

1 1/2 cups arborio or Valencia rice

3 ounces frozen bell pepper strips (1 cup; do not defrost)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Brown the sausage in a wide, ovenproof Dutch oven, cast-iron casserole or ovenproof deep saute pan over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes; they will not be cooked through. Transfer to a plate.

Season the chicken all over with the salt and pepper. Add to the same pan you used to cook the sausage; brown on both sides, turning once, about 6 minutes total; it will not be cooked through. Transfer to the plate with sausage.

Add the oil and pearl onions to the pan; reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes, then add the artichoke heart quarters; cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, oregano, paprika and saffron; cook until aromatic, about 20 seconds. Pour in the sherry, using a wooden spatula to dislodge all the browned bits in the pan. Once the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, add the tomatoes and their juices, the broth, rice and bell pepper strips. Stir well as it comes to a low boil. Taste and season lightly with salt, as needed.

Return the sausage and chicken to the pan, nestling them into the pan mixture. Cover and transfer to the oven; bake until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, 35 to 40 minutes. Let sit, covered, 10 minutes before serving (to blend the flavors).


Jamaican-inspired curry mango shrimp is simple and snappy. Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post

Jamaican-inspired curry mango shrimp is simple and snappy. Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post


A little fiery, sweet and intensely satisfying, this main-course dish typically involves a lot of chopping – but not this particular version. Frozen mango cubes will hold their shape a bit better than their fresh kin, adding better texture. But use fresh (not frozen) pre-chopped vegetables otherwise for the best texture.

Red curry powder is a blend that often contains paprika; a McCormick brand is available at some large supermarkets. Coconut cream is a Southeast Asian specialty, far thicker than coconut milk. (Do not use cream of coconut, a concoction for tiki drinks. Instead, search for coconut cream in Asian markets or online outlets.) Serve with warm corn tortillas, and consider roasted cashews for a garnish.

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1/3 cup pre-chopped fresh onion (see headnote)


1/3 cup pre-chopped fresh celery

1/3 cup pre-chopped fresh green bell pepper

1 tablespoon pre-minced ginger

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon bottled jerk seasoning

1 to 2 teaspoons red curry powder

1 teaspoon pre-minced garlic


2 cups cubed frozen/defrosted mango (from a 1-pound bag; see headnote)

3/4 cup coconut cream (see headnote)

1/4 cup water, or as needed (optional)

1 3/4 pounds medium, peeled/deveined shrimp (about 25 per pound; may use frozen/defrosted)

Kosher salt (optional)

Leaves from a few stems cilantro, torn, for garnish


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green bell pepper and ginger; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the jerk seasoning and curry powder (both to taste) and the garlic; cook until aromatic, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds.

Add the mango; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Pour in the coconut cream; once it starts to bubble at the edges, cook for 1 minute, stirring often. If the mixture seems too thick, add the water, as needed.

Stir in the shrimp; reduce the heat to low; cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until pink and firm and the sauce has thickened. Taste and season lightly with salt, if desired.

Garnish with the cilantro just before serving.

Red lentil and bulgur mash adds spice to a simple dinner. Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post

Red lentil and bulgur mash adds spice to a simple dinner. Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post


Here’s a go-to substitute for mashed potatoes when you want something richer and heartier alongside fish, steaks or chicken off the grill.


Makes 6 servings (a generous 41/2 cups)

1 quart no-salt-added vegetable broth

2/3 cup dried red lentils

2/3 cup regular bulgur, preferably whole-grain golden bulgur (do not use quick-cooking)

1/4 cup pre-chopped frozen/defrosted onion (see headnote)

1 teaspoon dried dill


1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

Combine the broth, lentils and bulgur in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. All the liquid will not be absorbed at this point.


Stir in the onion, drill, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Increase the heat to medium; cook, uncovered, stirring often, for 15 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and rich, about 10 minutes. Taste and add a pinch of salt, as needed. Serve warm.


This lunch-friendly recipe offers an innovative way to keep frozen cauliflower florets from turning into a mash: Let the hot water and wheat berries defrost and blanch them right in the same colander.

The salad can be refrigerated for several days.

Makes 4 servings


1 cup raw wheat berries, preferably spring white wheat berries or kamut berries (see headnote)

12 ounces frozen small cauliflower florets (do not defrost)

1/4 cup store-bought green olive tapenade

3 tablespoons olive oil

11/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled


1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted (see NOTE)

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the wheat berries, then partially cover and reduce the heat to low; cook until tender, about 50 minutes.

Just before the wheat berries are done, place the cauliflower florets in a large colander set in the sink. Drain the wheat berries, pouring them directly over the florets. Let stand for 1 minute, then rinse under cool water to stop further cooking. Drain well.

Whisk together the tapenade, oil, vinegar, sage, cinnamon and black pepper in a large bowl until a little creamy and well blended. Add the wheat berries and cauliflower, as well as the raisins and sunflower seeds. Toss well before serving.

NOTE: Toast the sunflower seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned, stirring or shaking the skillet often to prevent burning. Cool completely.

Weinstein and Scarbrough are the authors of 26 cookbooks, most recently “A La Mode: 120 Recipes in 60 Pairings” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016). Their website is bruceandmark.com and their podcast is “Cooking With Bruce and Mark” on iTunes.

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